A Scottish government fund has been set up to help creel fishermen badly affected by the exceptional winter weather.
The £400,000 creel support fund will contribute towards easing financial pressures faced by many in the industry owing to a loss of fishing gear and a reduction in catches.
The fisheries directorate Marine Scotland will be writing to all creel fishermen to alert them to this new fund.
Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Simon Collins said: “The SFA welcomes the government’s creation of a creel support fund to aid fishing vessels suffering reduced catches and loss of gear in recent months.
“Given that bad weather is not all that unusual in Shetland during the winter, we look forward to similar initiatives in the future.”
According to a statement from the Scottish government the creel sector and the inshore fishing industry generally is very important to many of Scotland’s most fragile coastal communities.
This announcement follows a fund that was established last summer for whitefish and prawn fishermen. The Scottish government said “it wants to support our inshore fishing industry and their communities and help those experiencing genuine hardship”.
As well as setting up the creel support fund, the Scottish government says it is working to develop new and existing markets for creel-caught produce.
Fishing minister Richard Lochhead said that the inshore fishing industry was very important to Scotland’s economy and the value of the catch in 2012 was £87 million.
However, the real value was often in the wider socio-economic benefits generated in communities around the coast; helping support schools and other local services, often in the most remote and fragile parts of the country.
Mr Lochhead said: “This section of our fishing industry is facing exceptionally tough times and the Scottish government wants to support them and their communities as they seek to overcome these challenges.
“My officials and I will continue to work with the industry to discuss what further steps can be taken to help and to develop new and existing markets for creel-caught produce.”
Alistair Sinclair of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation welcomed the setting up of the fund.
He said: “The creation of this fund will assist beleaguered fishermen who have suffered severe losses over the past two winters.
“Many of these guys are the lifeblood of small rural communities and this display of support from the Scottish government must be recognised as acknowledgment of their importance around the Scottish coastline.”
According to Fiona Matheson of Orkney Fishermen’s Association (OFA) the sector had seen a very difficult 12 months with a combination of late, cold springs and persistent gales from west and east resulting in undue hardship to fishermen and their families. Many had lost or damaged gear and been unable to get to sea for many weeks.
She said: “OFA welcome the government’s announcement that financial help will be made available to the creel sector and are pleased that recognition of the particular stressors hardship brings to rural and isles communities is being recognised at government level.”